Why Tree Stakes?
Young trees in the wild grow strong naturally, without the help of stakes. In the woods, trees grow up in the shelter of taller trees and are not affected by wind. According to the University of Davis, young trees develop strong roots and trunks before they expend energy in growing vertically, and don't need staking. If you've planted a young tree in an open, windy environment, you may need to stake it until its roots are strong enough to anchor it properly.
What is this about?
- Staking is a technique used to protect, anchor, and support recently transplanted trees.
- Sometimes, but not always. Most young trees can stand unsupported, and will be stronger without stakes.
- Staking actually delays the development of a strong tree.
- Trunk movement signals the lower trunk and roots to produce increased growth. A better trunk taper and root system results.
- Research shows that bare-root trees can stand alone without the need of tree stakes as well as B&B or containerized ones.
When is staking recommended?
- There are certain situations where staking can be advisable:
- very large tree size
- fall-planted evergreens
- high wind conditions
- very weak trunk
- high population pressure
What are the potential drawbacks of staking?
- Poor trunk development and trunk taper.
- Increased trunk caliper near the support ties, which produces a negative trunk taper and restricts the vascular tissue conducting water, nutrients, and sugars.
- Wounding or girdling from ties too tight against the trunk, especially when they are left on too long.
- Concentrated pressure from narrow ties (e.g. elastic webbing, wire, or even wire through a hose) will crush or cut through the bark cutting off nutrients and oxygen to the tree.
- Most susceptible are shallow-rooted evergreens and trees with a large "sail."
- More wind throw and wind damage later, particularly when the tree is staked rigidly.
What are the current recommendations?
- Don’t stake if you don’t have to.
- Consider alternative methods of staking.
- Remove stakes and ties within 1-2 years, or use degradable materials.
- Use flexible ties with a broad, smooth surface.
- If vandalism is a consideration: instead of staking, try planting larger caliper trees, or encircling the tree with heavy posts, wire, or metal grill work.
- If protecting from mowers and foot traffic: sink three 4' stakes halfway into the ground, 15" or so from the tree, and run a line between them to make a triangle.
- If follow-up maintenance within 1 year is unlikely: use 2" x 2" pine stakes, and UV degradable ties. The stakes and ties will fall off by themselves.
- If staking because the trunk is too weak: place the ties 6" above the lowest point where, when you hold the trunk, the top will still return upright after being bent to the side.
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